Are you traveling to Colorado and unsure of what to pack? I have been in your shoes. In this post, I share packing tips for traveling in Colorado based on my own experience visiting Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Breckenridge.
Before I traveled to Colorado, I was not sure what to pack. Naturally, I did what anyone else would do: I Googled. I also talked to my friends who live there. Their advice: keep it casual and dress in layers because the weather in Colorado is a bit weird.
What do I mean by weird weather? Well, it’s likely the temperature or conditions will change throughout the day. In February, you could have a gorgeous day ideal for golfing. Seriously, one of my friends told me he kept his golf clubs in his car year-round because a perfect day could happen any time of year in Denver. On the flip side, Colorado can have snow flurries in June — and even sometimes in July!
In Denver, the air is actually quite arid. Due to the Mile High City’s elevation, Denver only sees 8-15 inches of precipitation each year. If you do run into precipitation during your Denver trip, it’s likely not going to last long. Yet Breckenridge, known for its ski resorts, gets more than 300 inches of snow each year!
If you are even more confused about what to pack now, don’t worry. I got you.
The Five Essentials You Need On Your Colorado Packing List
After visiting for nine days in September 2014, talking with friends who live there year-round, and researching what other travel professionals recommend, I’ve compiled five tips for what to pack and wear when visiting Colorado any time of the year.
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First Of All, Don’t Forget Your Sunglasses!
Colorado gets 300-some days of sunshine every year, which is more annual hours of sunlight than Miami or Southern California. Whether you are hiking through Garden of the Gods, skiing down a mountain, or sipping a craft beer on a Denver brewery’s patio, you’ll definitely want to have your shades handy.
No matter what time of year you visit Colorado, you might also need sunscreen. Remember that snow reflects sunshine and that sunlight is stronger at higher elevations. An SPF of 25 to 30 is recommended when in Breckenridge and other high-elevation ski resort towns.
Shop My Look
Dress In Layers
The day I explored Fort Collins temperatures reached the upper 70s. Even the morning was pretty warm, and some locals on my late-morning tour of New Belgium’s brewery were already wearing shorts. Later in the day, the temperatures dipped. Let me tell you, I was happy to have dressed in layers that I could remove and add as desired. Evenings in the summer and early fall can be cool yet still pretty comfortable.
As I’ve traveled, I’ve found dressing in layers is the best way to be prepared for whatever weather I may encounter throughout the day. That certainly holds true when visiting Colorado. As one of my Denver Uber drivers joked, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.”
As you pack, consider packing shirts with sleeves that can roll up or down, button-down shirts you can easily layer over a T-shirt, lightweight jackets, and pashmina scarves.
Shop My Look:
Old Navy Chambray Shirt | Similar: Wrangler Women’s Western Denim Shirt
Old Navy V-Neck T-shirt | Similar: White V-neck T-shirt
Old Navy Bib Necklace | Similar: Bubble Bib Chunky Necklace
Gap Dark Wash Skinny Jeans | Similar Plus-Size: Levi’s Women’s Plus Perfectly Slimming Pull-On Skinny, Similar Misses: Levi Women’s 710 Super Skinny Jeans
Oliver Peoples sunglasses (similar)
Wear Warm Outerwear In The Mountains
Even though it reached 82° Fahrenheit (27° C) while I was in Denver, it was a brisk 33° F (.55° C) at the top of Pikes Peak, where the elevation is 14,110 feet. If you plan to visit Pikes Peak or other summits during your trip, check the usual temperature for the time of year you are visiting. It could be vastly different from Denver and Colorado Springs. Yes, even in the summer months.
If you plan to stay in the mountain towns, it will be cooler than the Front Range. The day I was in Breckenridge, the daytime temperatures were about 10 degrees lower than in Denver and Colorado Springs. It was sunny during the afternoon, and I was comfortable walking around in short sleeves. However, I pulled on a light track jacket in the shadier nooks. Remember what I said about layers, folks. By the way, workout gear goes pretty much anywhere in Colorado. At night, it had cooled down significantly, and I doubled back to my lodging for my fleece jacket before dinner.
For a short period of time in the mountains, I suggest wearing a lightweight fleece jacket like the one I’m wearing above. Fleece jackets are warm, great for layering, and won’t take up much space in your luggage. I also recommend packing a lightweight scarf or pashmina and pair of smart-touch gloves.
A Note About Visiting Colorado In Winter
Of course, my advice in this post is primarily based on my experience visiting in September, when average temperatures in Denver range between 44° F/6.7° C (low) and 78° F/25.6° C (high). Even in the mountain town of Breckenridge, September temperatures only average between 33° F/.55° C and 63°F/17° C. However, if you are visiting Colorado for a winter ski vacation, you’ll have other weather conditions and activities to consider as you pack.
Suggested Packing List For Winter Ski Trip In Colorado
- Snow boots
- Warm socks
- Long underwear or other moisture-wicking base layer, best if polyester blend or wool
- Mid-layer such as a micro-hoodie, vest, or lightweight down jacket for warmth
- Winter jacket with waterproof yet breathable fabric, high collar, hood, snow-cuffs, and ventilation
- Snow pants
- Winter hat
- Neck Gaiter
- Waterproof winter gloves
- Ski/snowboard goggles
- Ski/snowboard helmet — If don’t have one, just rent one from the ski resort. This will save luggage space!
- Swimsuit (for a relaxing hot tub dip after a long day on the slopes)
Wear Footwear For Active Days
For every trip I’ve taken in the past year, I’ve packed at least one pair of heels. Except for my trip to Colorado. In fact, the fanciest pair of shoes I packed were black leather flats, which I only wore to a couple dinners and nights on the town with friends in Boulder and Denver.
While packing, I already knew I’d be biking in Boulder and climbing atop rocks at Garden of the Gods. I knew I’d be visiting Pikes Peak’s summit, where it would be cold and possibly snowy. And, even on my less active days in Denver, I’d still be doing a lot of walking between museums, restaurants and breweries.
Therefore, I packed the following three shoes for active travel:
- Tennis Shoes/Sneakers: I prefer lightweight tennis shoes for traveling because they take up less space in my suitcase. These shoes are great for adventure and athletic activities such as biking, trail walks, light hiking, and exploring rocky areas. If you plan to do serious hiking, you may want a sturdy pair of hiking boots.
- Booties: I like boots that offer both style and functionality. On a mountain, boots provide stability and warmth. And, they can still be cute, edgy, or suit your personal style!
- Boat Shoes: Boat shoes are the most comfortable shoes I’ve found for long days full of walking. They provide more support than sandals, flip flops, and other warm-weather footwear. Boat shoes also don’t usually have uncomfortable arches like tennis shoes sometimes have. If you are looking for a pair of boat shoes, I recommend Sperry and Lands’ End.
Accessorize Casual Basics
My friends were right about the casual ease of Colorado style. Jeans paired with classic v-neck T-shirts worked everywhere I went in Colorado — museums, breweries, hotels, restaurants, outdoor festivals, and rooftop happy hours. When traveling, I pack a lot of basics and accessorize with scarves and jewelry to add a little personal style and flair. This makes it easy to mix and match outfits throughout the trip, too.
As you pack for Colorado, keep comfort and functionality in mind. You’ll want to be prepared for changes in the weather by wearing layers. But all this doesn’t mean you can’t be stylish! Though casual clothing and athleisure wear are perfectly acceptable in most Colorado establishments, a quality pashmina and a little jewelry can take your look from daytime hike to happy hour drinks.
If you’ve been to Colorado, what would you recommend travelers pack?
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Planning to visit Colorado? You might also like these posts …
- Four Cities You Should Visit On Colorado’s Front Range
- Five Things You Should Do In Colorado Springs
- A Look Inside Boulder’s Historic Hotel Boulderado
- ‘Snapshots’ Of New Belgium Brewery Tour
- Empire Burger – Satisfy Your Burger Craving In Breckenridge, Colorado